In the UK it is currently compulsory for students to have a grade C in GCSE English and maths. You would normally take these exams in school. However, the students resitting English and maths GCSEs in colleges failed to achieved good passes during their time at school.
I studied in Italy and we don’t have such thing as GCSE’s, the system is completely different. If I had to find an equivalent it would be the exam that we do at the end of Middle School (14 years old) but it includes 12 subjects and you have to pass them all. That’s the major difference between Italian and English education. For GCSE’s you have some mandatory subjects and then your own choice of around 6 subjects, whereas in Italy there are 12 compulsory subjects for everyone. In College you choose 3 or 4 subjects whereas in what we call High School in Italy you still have to do every subject but you can specialise in something.
This way, the focus is not just on English and maths and everyone will try and pass each subject. I think that in England by emphasising so much the attention on English and Maths, people neglect the other subjects or worse, they think that they’re not going to do English and maths in College so they don’t put as much effort into it.
I believe that basic English and maths skills are useful for everyday life and especially for a future job or going on to further education. When I was looking for a job, they asked me if I had English and maths GCSE’s and it was an essential requirement. When I applied to the University of Leeds, I didn’t get through with my application because they didn’t recognise my Italian exams as equivalents of GCSE’s. That means that they are extremely important in England and they are the minimum requirement of qualification that you need.
When I did my exams in Middle School I passed with a grade 8/10 overall. They were definitely challenging but if you failed you didn’t have the chance to resit. That counts for every year of education in Italy, if you fail one or more subjects you have to repeat the whole year. It think that’s a massive advantage for English people because they can still progress if they fail one exam. Rather than the ambition for students to pass their resit becoming a reality, it is failing young people and has the potential to making the learning of English and maths something that is alien and uninspiring.
Over a quarter of million 16 to 18 year olds re-sat their GSCE English and maths in the UK in 2016. This has had a disastrous logistical and resource impact on colleges. Timetabling, class sizes, finding enough qualified teachers and finding suitable venues for exams have all proven the policy to be one challenge too far for colleges. Our college have had to suspend the whole curriculum for the day to accommodate GCSE exams.
At the beginning of the first and second year of College we had to do a BKSB test. It consisted of English and maths questions and it was carried out in order to identify an skills that a learner needs to work on. I personally don’t think it made any difference taking that test, it may have helped some people but not me.
In conclusion, I think my English and maths skills are good. Even If I learned English as a foreign language, I think I have the basic skills that the GCSE exam requires.